As a businessman resident in Belize, Michael Ashcroft donated millions to the Tories, eventually being rewarded with a peerage by William Hague in 2000 and becoming a vice-chairman of the party. But the question of whether he paid tax in this country continued to embarrass Hague throughout his time as party leader and afterwards.
Now Lord Ashcroft has been asking a series of written questions which suggest he would like to give up his seat in the Lords and resume his non-dom status. Since 2010 all peers are automatically registered as fully domiciled for tax purposes. When the legislation was brought in there was a three-month window for peers to quit the House for good.
Four people took this up, including Lord McAlpine and Norman Foster, but Ashcroft, following the controversy and confusion over his tax affairs, decided to remain.
However, there is now no escape for peers, as the Government has ruled out any small bits of Lords reform legislation that would expel peers with criminal convictions and allow others to retire.
This may be why Ashcroft asked Justice Minister Lord McNally in December what steps the Government was taking to ensure members of the Lords retain the correct citizenship status, and what are the consequences if they don’t.
McNally’s answer clearly didn’t satisfy Ashcroft, who asked in January what steps were being taken to ensure their Lordships retained the correct citizenship.
Then in February he asked Lord Wallace of Saltaire whether the Government was backing the House of Lords Cessation of a membership bill. He was told they weren’t.
Now Ashcroft has asked what happens if peers “take permanent leave of absence and do not attend the House of Lords thereafter: and, if not, why not?”
Sounds like it’s bye-bye Lord Ashcroft. It was recently reported that he was dropping his financial support for the Conservatives over the PM’s gay marriage “obsession” and he was not hopeful of them winning a majority in 2015. London Evening Standard